Archive for June, 2010

Grow Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’ From Seed


2010
06.27

PBHobson2 Patsy Bell Hobson is a garden writer and a travel writer. For her, it’s a great day when she can combine the two things she enjoys most: gardening and traveling. Visit her personal blog at http://patsybell.com/ and read her travel writings at http://www.examiner.com/x-1948-Ozarks-Travel-Examiner.

Chard is becoming a favorite summer green for home gardeners. It’s beautiful! And, long after the cool season, when greens such as spinach have faded from my Zone 6 garden, chard is the one that steadily produces fresh greens for my favorite salads.

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Make tomato and swiss chard soup this summer.
Photo by Robyn Lee/Courtesy Flickr

Grow and Cook with Swiss Chard

Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’ was honored as an All-America Selections (AAS) winner in 1998. When buying herb and vegetable seeds, I look for seeds that are AAS winners, which are selected based on their superior performance. AAS winners will also grow most anywhere in North America. The All-America Selections® logo tells me that I can grow this plant easily from seed.

Swiss chard, or chard, is a beet that is usually selected for its leaf production, not for its root formation. Plant chard seeds a week or two before your favorite salad greens, such as spinach, bolt. When you pull up these greens your chard seedlings will be well on their way. Also, by the time tomatoes are ripe and ready, lettuce will be long gone from your garden. Instead, grow young chard leaves as a lettuce substitute. I use it in the summer’s best sandwich: the bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich, or the BLT.

Many cooks remove chard’s colorful stems, which can be yellow, gold, orange, pink, red or white, and cook them separately before adding greens to the mix. (The stems take longer to cook.) Cut off the outer leaves 1 1/2 inches above the ground when they are young and tender, which is when they are about 8 to 10 inches tall. Larger leaves can be cooked and used as you would use spinach. If you like spinach, you will like this hardy and more earthy-flavored relative.

Fill your garden with Swiss chard whereever you find an empty space. It grows well in containers and is pretty enough to grow in a flower bed. Swiss chard is loaded with vitamins A, C, and contain vitamin B, calcium, iron and phosphorus. Like most greens, chard is very low in calories. And unlike most vegetables, it has a slightly higher sodium content than most leafy greens.

Seed Packet Giveaway!

Burpee has generously agreed to give away three seed packets of Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’ to my Herb Companion readers. Winners will be selected at random. Details below.

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• Post a comment below: Share your experience with Swiss chard. Do you currently grow this plant? What would you like to use it for? 

It’s dill pickle season


2010
06.27

Patsy Bell Hobson is a garden writer and a travel writer. For her, it’s a great day when she can combine the two things she enjoys most: gardening and traveling. Visit her personal blog at http://patsybell.com and read her travel writings at Ozarks Travel Examiner.

Best known for pickling, dill (Anethum graveolens) is also a good herb for succession planting. If making dill pickles is on your Summer To-Do List, try this variety: dill ‘Dukat’. This variety, which is bred in Denmark, has finely cut leaves that stay fresh longer than other varieties.

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Hanging herb garden hung by the window to grow in Brooklyn.
Photo by Dory Komfeld/Courtesy Flickr

I like this newer variety of dill. It is pretty enough to plant in a sunny flower garden and it’s more compact than taller, older varieties. This is one of the few herbs that I enjoy to use both the ferny leaves and the seeds. Those beautiful lacey leaves are often referred to as dill weed. After this member of the carrot family has bloomed and set seed, cut it and hang it upside down in a paper bag to collect seed.

8 June Caterpillar
While the black swallowtail butterfly is a caterpillar, it feeds on dill.
Photo by Ken Pomerance/Courtesy Flickr

I suggest that you start this plant from seed—it has a long tap root, which means that transplanting it will have limited success. Plant a few seeds every two weeks to extend your season of fresh dill and to grow more than you need to share with local butterflies. Grateful butterflies will enjoy finding this smaller, more compact variety in your garden and caterpillars will appreciate its ready supply. It’s a well known fact that dill (as well as parsley and fennel) will attract butterflies to your garden.

To preserve, freeze your dill plant by cutting the branches into sections short enough to fit into heavy plastic freezer bags. Do not chop the leaves into bits until it is ready to use. This will brighten the fragrance and flavor when you use it in any recipe. Dill will keep in the freezer for about six months.

8 June Dill and Garlic
Use dill and garlic to make homemade pickles.
Photo by Sarah Reid

Use dill for more than pickles and dilly beans. Try a little dill in a favorite biscuit recipe. If you are serving pre-made biscuits, brush a little dill-infused butter on them. Also, I couldn’t make potato salad without dill weed.

This dill seed is easy to find. I bought my seeds at Renee’s Garden, Burpee and Nichols Garden Nursery online catalogs; several other companies also sell dill seed. But if you don’t want to find them on your own, enter my garden giveaway!

Book Review: Tomatoes Garlic Basil


2010
06.23

PBHobson2 Patsy Bell Hobson is a garden writer and a travel writer. For her, it’s a great day when she can combine the two things she enjoys most: gardening and traveling. Visit her personal blog at and read her travel writings.

In my Zone 6 garden there are always three kinds of tomatoes: a paste tomato for sauces, a cherry tomato, because these small tomatoes are always the first to ripen (and later, when the big tomatoes are producing, these small ones will be dried), and a big, meaty tomato for eating fresh (and for bragging rights). I love tomatoes and when I saw Tomatoes Garlic Basil (St. Lynn’s Press, 2010), I judged the book by its cover. It is beautiful. Eventually, I was tempted to open the paperback tribute to the garden and kitchen’s favorite produce and I’m glad that I did. The book only gets better!

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Tomatoes, garlic and basil are the holy trinity of the vegetable garden.

Doug Oster’s Tomatoes Garlic Basil is a love letter about our favorite home garden produce. If you are one of the millions of backyard gardeners who grow tomatoes, this book is for you. Tomatoes are the star of the show. And, just like most gardens, basil and garlic have strong supporting roles in the book that magnify the magic of home grown tomatoes.

The book will not overwhelm you with soil science and plant genetics. It will give you some good advice about soil preparation and plant selection. The pleasure of reading this book grows as Oster offers us many choices with these three simple garden staples.

Like most gardeners, Oster is generous in sharing his experience and recipes. If you are new to gardening, try the simple combination of these three plants. He also encourages people who do not have garden space and shares some planting options. Each chapter begins with a garden or food quote that ties into the chapter. In Chapter 2, I was inspired by “Summer Celebrations” and looked forward to incorporating some of his ideas as I create new traditions for my own family. And by the time you get to the great advice in Chapter 9, which is about soil preparation and weed control, Oster will feel like an old neighbor

Oster is still on the big adventure of trying some different tomato plants every year as well as growing his favorites. It’s a good idea and you will never run out of tomato varieties to try. After reading this book you will be able to speak about basil and garlic as well as tomatoes with any home gardener.

This book would make a great gift for either a new or experienced gardener, as well as for the recipients of your produce bounty. (I recommend you buy the print version to enjoy the artful photographs.) The only difficult part is deciding whether to put this book with my cookbooks or on the shelf with the gardening books. I decided to take the book into the kitchen and try the recipes with my own fresh tomatoes, garlic and basil.

I enjoyed the humorous and serious gardening stories and there are plenty of artsy photographs throughout the book. I will definitely put Doug’s recipes and gardening tips to use this summer.

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Cherry tomatoes are heavy producers.

Book Details

Tomatoes Garlic Basil: The Simple Pleasures of Growing and Cooking Your Garden’s Most Versatile Veggies by Doug Oster
• Paperback: 272 pages.
• Publisher: St. Lynn’s Press; 1st edition, ISBN-10: 0981961517 and ISBN-13: 978-0981961514
• See Doug Oster’s Blog at http://www.dougoster.com/books/ to read “My favorite story from Tomatoes Garlic Basil.”

Rock Solid Strawberry


2010
06.23

Frozen fruit will thaw by dessert time. photo by Roboppy

Little berries are sweet and would be tasty frozen treat. photo: PBH

First, this is not my idea. I came upon this tidbit watching late night/early morning TV. Frozen Fruit

Ingredients
1 quart strawberries, de-stemmed
1 (3 pound) block dry ice

Directions

Wash strawberries and place in a paper towel-lined colander. Cover with another paper towel and place in the refrigerator for 4 hours.

  • Break dry ice into small pieces, and toss with berries in a large bowl. Place into a container and cover with a towel. Place this in a cooler for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove berries and put into sealable bags and store in the freezer.

French strawberries grown in a hanging basket photo:PBH

Frozen Fruit

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day June 2010


2010
06.18

I love June.

Yes, there are lots of day lilies and cone flowers.

Day Lilies are bright and cheerful and at their best in June.

Everything in the garden is green and healthy. Later in the summer, plants get dusty and wilted or chewed and burned up by bugs and heat. There are lots of day lilies and cone flowers  in full bloom. The roses haven’t been attacked by the Japanese beetles yet.

Cone flowers ablaze, different varieties bloom at different times, extending the season

Before I share  my flowers, I wanted to show you this unobtrusive drip irrigation system for all 12 of the hanging baskets. Most of these plants are annuals and trial plants that are fun varieties new to me.

a thin black tube carries the water overhead

Raddish flowers

Spring raddishes hung on till the summer heat, then bolted, bloomed and are setting seed.  With all the beautiful flowers, sometimes it’s easy to overlook the  little blooms in the herb and vegetable garden. I’m focusing on edible blooms and vegetable flowers this Bloom Day.


Raddish seed pods look like little bean pods.

Herbs are at their best now and growing fast. Many, like this lilac colored geranium are edible.  Add the petals to a garden salad or,  garnish a dessert plate with these little flowers.

I vowed to keep the zucchini  in control this year. Harvesting squash blossoms, to stuff and fry is a tasty way to keep this beautiful vegetable from over populating the kitchen counter. Harvest these baby squash for grilling.

enjoy fried squash blossoms or grill baby zukes.

attracts bees

Nepeta, or catmint, is a member of the mint family.

Catmint (Nepeta), is a member of the mint family. It is easy to grow, has few pests or problems and attracts loads of pollinators to the garden. A few of these petit little blooms sprinkled on top of a dessert or a salad would be festive.

Carbon tomato plant is loaded with yellow blooms.

Growing fast, and delicate blooming while little fingerlings are growing in the ground.

onion flowers add a very mild, touch of onion flavor.

Onion flowers add just a hint of onion to poppy seed dressing, potato salad, rice wine vinegar or herb butter.

This rose was just begging to be photographed before the Japanese beetles invade.

And finally, these Jackson and Perkins roses just begged to be photographed before the Japanese beetles arrive. And, really it’s nice to end on a rosy note.

Thank you for visiting, please come again.

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